The other day after not even 3 minutes of being awake, I found myself coming up with what things I would accomplish for the day. After my workout, I’d quickly make coffee & breakfast, read my bible, take attendance, lesson plan, teach, walk my dog, and the list just kept going! I honestly just layed there and had to laugh as I thought to myself, geez, no wonder I’ve been so exhausted! I’m literally sitting here planning every single moment of my day, before I have even gotten out of bed! And that’s when I realized, I have a problem.
Something I’ve struggled a lot with lately is giving God control of my day. I actually decided a while ago to stop making physical to-do lists, as I realized it put a spirit of anxiety into my day, as I went about rushing from task to task, trying to accomplish everything (and then some) that I wanted to get done for the day. What I’ve come to realize, is that while that worked for a while, I now have a mental to-do list in my head that is slowly but surely consuming my mind, filling it with anxious thoughts and distractions from the things that truly matter and need to get done.
Obviously, being productive is important and things do need to get done, but I am realizing more and more each day this week, that I have made productivity an idol in my life.
Idols are things in our lives that we hold dearly. They often consume much of our time, thoughts, and sometimes, even our money. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the main idols people worshipped were statues (like a calf made out of gold) and false gods. While this seems kind of silly to us today, it was actually a big deal, as it showed that the people’s hearts and minds were more focused on and trusting in the statues or false gods than they were on our actual God!
Sadly, we are no different than the people in the Old Testament…idols are still so very rampant in our society today, they just look different. For me, it’s currently how I spend my time, as I mentioned before. I have a need to feel in control over every area of my life and if I don’t accomplish the things I think I need to get done, I feel out of control. For you, it could be something you look to for comfort before going to God, finding your value in social media, finding your security in your bank account, finding security or purpose in filling your calendar out with your future plans, finding a sense of your beauty in getting compliments from others, finding contentment in experiences, and so many more.
We can easily identify the idols in our lives, by evaluating what things we spend the most time doing, thinking about, or finding satisfaction in. Believe it or not, these things truly pull us away from God and are so dangerous to our relationship with Him. The Bible is very clear on warning us to not have idols in our lives! For me, my to-do list, whether on paper or mental, has consumed so much of my time and thoughts, that I’m realizing I have neglected my relationship with God and have missed out on opportunities to spend time with Him and be obedient to things He tells me to do (or not do!), because I am so consumed with getting things done.
In the Old Testament, time after time, the Israelites chose to worship false gods and idols before they worshipped God. This led them to break the covenant they had made with God, which meant they’d receive His judgement. While this seems harsh, God always warned them of the coming judgement, which was an act of mercy, but sadly, they continuously chose their idols and way of living, over giving God the worship and control He deserved.
God used many people in the Bible, called prophets to warn the Israelites of these dangerous situations they’d enter into time and time again. One specific prophet that sticks out to me, is Ezekiel. Ezekiel was given the difficult mission of letting the Israelites know all the ways they had broken the covenant with God and that judgement was coming their way. Can you imagine that being your mission in life?? The name Ezekiel means “God hardens”, because God gave Ezekiel the emotional capacity to be able to withstand all of the backlash he got as he had to deliver this difficult message to people whom God told him would not listen! And I thought I had it rough!!
But what I love about the book of Ezekiel, is the ending chapters, specifically Chapter 47. As a language arts teacher, I live for symbolism and imagery, and this is just one of the most beautiful pictures painted in the Bible of what it looks like when we seek after God and give him complete control over our lives, rather than turning to idols or things of the world to satisfy us. It speaks not only of the impact this has on our relationship with God, but of the overflow it provides to other people in our lives as well.
The passage starts with Ezekiel seeing the temple (like the church today), with “water coming out from under the threshold” (Verse 2). As he continues to walk further away from the temple, I imagine him following the stream coming out of the temple with great curiosity. He eventually reaches water that is “ankle-keep”, then “knee-deep”, and eventually, “waist-deep” (Verses 3-4). Now, what was a small stream, has turned into a “river that [Ezekiel] could not cross, because it [had] risen and was deep enough to swim in [now]” (Verse 5). After being in the deep water, Ezekiel is taken back to the riverbank, where he now sees “a great number of trees on each side of the river” (Verse 7) and he is told that as the water continues on, it enters into the Dead Sea, (one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water) and when it enters the Dead Sea, “the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures live wherever the river flows…wherever the river flows, everything lives…Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month, they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary (the same temple that started with just a trickle flowing out) flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing” (Verses 8-12).
Gosh, I just love the meaning behind the image describe in this passage. It makes me cry just thinking about the implications and the power of the stream, which represent God and His presence. The thing is, the water starts as just a trickle, and could go SO easily unnoticed. For me, I might be too busy with my to-do list, to go see and experience the stream. But if I take the time to follow it, or spend time with God, then the more deeply I get to experience God and relinquish control to Him, just as Ezekiel did.
As he followed the small stream, soon his ankles were covered, then his knees, suddenly his waist…and before he knew it, he was swimming in deep water. I imagine at this point, he has completely given control to God, as he said that it was a river no one was able to cross, meaning he would have to relinquish control and trust God to protect and guide Him at that point. What an image of such immense peace! I just imagine Ezekiel laying back, floating, being guided and just going wherever God wants him to go.
What I love too about this passage is that the river then flows into the Dead Sea (a symbol of those who don’t yet know God), and it turns the salt water into fresh water, meaning it brings people LIFE. As Ezekiel continues on, he sees the Dead Sea and that there are now trees that have received the water that came from the sanctuary and they are now able to bear fruit because of it, which is food and healing for OTHERS! This is what happens to us as believers when we fully submit to God and access the river, or God’s presence to satisfy us and help us. We bear fruit that heals others. How cool is that?! The deeper we go with God, the more we can be a witness in His Kingdom to help others come to know Him!
This image reminds me of John 15:5 that talks about God being the vine and us being the branches. It says that when we remain in Him, or look to Him for all of our needs, we will produce fruit. This is the same image painted in Ezekiel, with God being the water, and us being the trees that can grow and bear fruit when we receive the water.
As soon as we walk away from the water source, or God, like John 15:5 says, we can do nothing. We will produce no fruit, and like a tree, we start to actually wither and die spiritually when we aren’t connected to God and actively seeking Him! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather look to God before anything or anyone else to fill me up! I know that no to-do list, whether completed or not, is going to be me contentment. I’m praying today that I let God sweep me away and down the river, so that I can be a light and provide “food” and “healing” for others as I give him complete control of today, tomorrow, and every day after that!
Questions to Ponder & Pray On:
- Can you identify the idols in your life? What things do you think about most, spend the most time doing, or spend most of your money on?
- Are there idols in your life that are keeping you from being “waist-deep” with God?
- Do you spend time each day seeking God to fill you up?
God wants you to draw near to Him, to seek Him, and simply, to spend time with Him! That’s the only way we as Christians grow and feel contentment. Nothing else in the world will satisfy you!